World Environment Day devoted to biodiversity
This year’s World Environment Day, June 5th, is devoted to biodiversity, as this is the UN International Year of Biodiversity. In 2002, governments set 2010 as a deadline to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biological species. But the UN Environment Programme says this is far from being achieved. Bissera Kostova filed this report.
Steiner: In many parts of the world an invisible crisis has been unfolding.
NARR: Achim Steiner is the Executive Director of UNEP, the UN Environment Programme, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He says the loss of species, at what some estimate is a rate of one every 20 minutes, is an indictment to humanity.
Steiner: Our ignorance, our arrogance, our greed has driven us to a point where we are faced with extinction rates that exceed anything we have known in terms of geological history. Our ability as 6.5 billion people and soon over 3-4 decades 9 billion people, to destroy the very foundations that make life possible on this planet, that sustain and make the ecosystems deliver the services that we have become used to is truly a worrying phenomenon. The invisibility of the cost of that loss – not only in terms of the future of our children and grandchildren, but also in terms of economic costs that today is only just beginning to be understood.
PSA … with this idea, this recycled bag, this bottle, with this frog, with this alternative, with this planet, I am WED. Please join us in celebrating World Environment Day, every year …
NARR: On June 5th each year the UN invites the people of the world to celebrate the environment and join together with ideas on how to protect it. This year’s main celebration of World Environment Day is being held in Rwanda.
Steiner: It is a place that has been both characterized by extraordinary tragedy, but also by a determination to recover and to rebuild a nation and to rebuild a nation around a development model that ultimately will walk a different path to those of the 20th century.
NARR: A UNEP reporter in Kenya spoke to Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the country, William Kayonga. He says Rwanda has come a long way since the tragic events of the genocide in 1994.
Kayonga: During the war, a lot of forest cover was lost and thereafter, as well, when the returning refugees looked for open spaces, where they could resettle, they had to cut down trees for firewood and reconstruction, new houses and everything, so a lot of forest cover was lost over this period of time. But then it dawned on us that look, we are depleting our forest cover, we are depleting our natural resources and once depleted we’ll have nothing left. So quite a lot has been done in terms of strict laws being put in place – for example, banning the depletion of forests, plastics (No plastics allowed?) No plastics allowed (throughout your country?) Throughout the country, when if you travel to Rwanda, your plastic would be taken away at the airport (Uh-oh) and recyclable material given to you as an alternative. Also the manufacturing industry has had to look for alternatives to plastics. So whereas it is creating a very difficult situation, it is also creating an opportunity for innovation.
NARR: Rwanda has also taken steps to protect its wildlife. The central African country is home to more than 150 mammal species, including half of the remaining population of mountain gorillas and a dozen other primates. And as Dr. Jane Goodall, who has devoted her life to studying these animals reminds us, their brains differ from ours only in size.
Goodall: The anatomy of the human and chimpanzee brain is almost the same. And in their intellectual ability they show behaviours that we used to think unique to us. They show sophisticated cooperation. They have a sense of humour, a sense of grief. They mourn.
NARR: But even Dr. Goodall admits that with language the human intellect was elevated far above those of its close cousins.
Goodall: And this raises a question, a very fundamental question – how is it that arguably the most intellectual being ever to walk on planet Earth is destroying its only home. And we all know the kinds of insults that we’re heaping on this planet.
NARR: To help fight the despair she says she saw in young people regarding our planet’s future, Jane Goodall started almost 20 years ago a programme called Roots and Shoots. Under its guidance children and youths create their own projects to help people, animals and the environment.
Goodall: And it’s what gives me the energy to keep on traveling 300 days a year, because everywhere I go there are these young people with shining eyes, wanting to tell Dr. Jane what they’ve been doing or what they plan to do to make the world a better place, and running through is a theme of let’s learn to live in peace and harmony, not only with each other – between cultures, between religions, between nations, but between us and the natural world. So that’s the message that I bring to you – a way forward, a way of hope, out of the mess that we have made.
NARR: Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace. For UN Radio, I’m Bissera Kostova.